4 October 2019

College students were given the chance to quiz local MP Luke Pollard on topics such as Brexit, the electoral system and the voting age, when he attended the College as part of students’ Extended Project Qualification studies.

Over 50 students aged 16-18 took the opportunity to attend the hour-long event on 4 October. During the discussion, Mr Pollard, the Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, told the students he supported the ‘Votes at 16’ campaign and said: “Nobody born in the 21st century had a say in the Brexit referendum in 2016. Only people born in the 20th century had a say.”

He urged the students to ensure they made their voices heard by registering to vote: “You can register to vote at 16. Have your say. Use your voice. And if you’re not 18, use your voice to influence and persuade others. Tell your story. Say what matters to you.”

Some of the students agreed that the voting age should be reduced, with one saying: “If you’re old enough to join the Army at 16, you’re old enough to vote”. But others felt 18 was the right age, with one student commenting that “we don’t have the knowledge or experience” to vote at 16.

Mr Pollard, whose constituency includes the College, explained both sides of the Brexit debate to the students - most of them sixth formers but also a handful from Year 11 who expressed an interest in attending.

The MP told them he was “a big remainer” but that overturning the referendum without a second vote would be undemocratic as it would be “ignoring the views of people who voted leave in 2016”.

During the talk, Mr Pollard asked the students to consider the opposite view to the one they hold, and he added: “I believe that all politicians go into politics for the right reasons, to make a positive impact. It’s just that they have different views on how to do that.”

Afterwards, Mr Pollard said: “Young people’s voices are being routinely ignored in politics and the way to change that is to take time to listen to people, to give them encouragement that their voices matter. Not every young person has a vote - but they have a voice and they should use it.”

Assistant Head of Sixth Form, Ms Corby, said: “We have a lot of students with an aspiration to go to university and these events broaden their cultural references and makes them more politically and socially aware - which can only be a positive thing.

“Mr Pollard is our local MP for this area, but the College of course welcomes members of parties from across the political spectrum,” she added.

Some of the students stayed on at the end of the event to talk further with the MP - among them, Year 13 students Jessica and Libby and Year 12 student Reynor. Jessica sits on Plymouth City Council’s Youth Parliament, while Libby is a former member of the Youth Parliament.

Jessica said: “It’s great to have a politician come and explain things to us because there is so much out there on the internet and you don’t know what’s accurate and what isn’t. So it was good to get some correct information, and hear all sides of the debate.”  Reynor who hopes to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at university, added: “It was a really good event and I thought he was very balanced in the way he presented things.”

College Principal, Ms Frier said: “It’s useful for students to understand their voting rights because, as Mr Pollard said, it’s very important that they have their voices heard. The event also offered clarity on what’s happening in politics currently, in a balanced way and in a way that encourages understanding and tolerance of other opinions.”